Monthly Archives: June 2019

June 30 2019 – “Bishop of Burnley calls for Mandatory Reporting” – BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme – ‘Thinking Anglicans’

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Bishop of Burnley calls for Mandatory Reporting

Bishop of Burnley calls for Mandatory Reporting

Thinking Anglicans

See our earlier article Senior Blackburn clergy reflect on IICSA reports on Chichester Diocese and Peter Ball.

The BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme carried an interview by Donna Birrell with the Bishop of Burnley, Philip North (starts at 32 minutes, 45 seconds).

BBC Radio Cornwall has a longer version of this interview, listen over here.

A transcript of this (longer) interview is copied below the fold.

Transcript of full interview with Bishop of Burnley, Philip North. (Shorter interview broadcast on BBC Radio 4, longer version on BBC Radio Cornwall.)
Jesus puts a child in front of the disciples as a model of discipleship, Jesus cared for children, put them at the centre of His community….and yet ….. as a church we’ve been complicit in appalling acts of abuse and of cover-up of children and I think we need a spirit of repentance now and to change the language and think through the structural changes this might entail.
DB : It’s very interesting you say that because you also make the point that this is about the whole Church and it’s about today…..
I do not doubt that things are infinitely better than they were 10/20 years ago in terms of training of clergy and parishes and safeguarding policies and procedures and good structures and systems in place, BUT to try and think that everything is historical and there are no longer vulnerabilities is just the kind of complacency which allows manipulative people to abuse children. We MUST look very honestly at the Church today a see what further steps we need to take and I think there’s a whole series of structural changes that we still need to consider, which is what we’re pointing to in this letter.
DB : Well you certainly have, in fact, in the letter, and I quote the letter, you say ” Does a de-centralised structure with independent parishes, diocese and cathedrals, create gaps that manipulative people can hide in? So therefore, Bishop Philip, would you be in favour of an independent safeguarding structure and mandatory reporting?
I think in terms of an independent safeguarding structure, that is where we need to have a very serious debate and personally, I would, because separate structures in each diocese don’t allow checks and balances that are needed and it means that safeguarding teams can always be prey to budgeting cuts. There is no evidence of that, but it is going to be a temptation in straightened financial times. It seems to me that an independent national safeguarding team with locally deployed safeguarding officers working in dioceses but answerable to the national team, is going to provide the kind of checks and balances that we need.
I think in some churches there is excellent practice, in others, safeguarding is still a matter of ticking boxes and we need to be very clear that every single local church is absolutely safe for children and families. And I think also we need to look at the way we engage our clergy, so does common tenure allow the level of accountability that is required now?
Is the Clergy Discipline Measure efficient and speedy and fit for purpose? These are big areas that we need to look at.
Evasive talk of culture change just won’t do, because culture is determined by appointments and by structures and by decisions and that is what we’ve got to look at.
DB : Well indeed, in fact the letter refers to “vague and evasive talk of culture change.” So you’re also suggesting that there is an inappropriate culture of deference to clergy, especially senior clergy, which has resulted in “cover-up” and I’m quoting your letter again, and the voices of the vulnerable being silenced?
That’s a significant concern. I think clergy are often unaware of the power they hold, but actually especially senior clergy, occupy extremely influential powerful positions. Abuse is all about the abuse of power and I think we need to be very aware of the power we hold. And I think we need to be much more serious about the checks and balances on power – an unhealthy clericalism, an unhealthy deference to clergy, especially in senior positions, undermines that.
DB : Very interesting. that you as a diocese have chosen to write this letter, it’s been signed and put together by all the senior clergy  within the diocese…and a few weeks back, other Bishops, including the Bishop of Bristol, Vivienne Faull, also came out and was scathing in response to the Independent Inquiry report into the Diocese of Chichester and in her words, she said that that culture of tribalism and clericalism still exists today. So it’s quite something that senior figures such as yourself are beginning now to speak out against the culture within the Church, but do you think you will be listened to?
Yes, I think we are. What I’d love to see is that people are beginning to see survivors not as a nuisance that needs to be managed, but people speaking with a prophetic voice to the Church. And I think they need to listen to the voices of survivors and hear very clearly what they’re saying to us. It’s absolutely essential. It’s one thing I’ve learned in 25 years of priestly ministry, it’s the voices that are most worth hearing are the ones that are the most difficult and the most grating. Those important voices, I think if we can hear those who have been abused multipley, because survivors have been abused by a priest or a church leader initially, but then the slowness of the church response, a culture of cover-up, all these things re-abuse and re-abuse and those are the people that I think we now need to hold in the centre of the Church, just as Jesus held that child at the centre of His community.
DB : Why do you think its taken so long to reach this point then, when senior figures such as yourself will actually speak out about it?
I think we’ve been ashamed of our past, I think we’ve blamed and scapegoated perpetrators, rather than thinking about our own structures and about our own culpability and responsibility. I think this is an issue the Church of England has not wanted to face up to and it’s high time we did.
DB : Right, well Bishop Philip, let’s go back to the culture and the structure of the Church, because survivors do indeed say that the process of bringing a case against the Church for sexual abuse is so damaging that it is almost a type of re-abuse. They talk about the process of going through the insurers, of going through the forensic psychiatric reporting which many survivors, I’ve spoken to, have said it is so damaging that effectively it has caused mental health problems, in some cases, it has also caused them to consider taking their own lives, how can the Church try to look again at the way it deals with survivors and their claims?|
I am embarrassed by some of the stories that I’ve heard from survivors – people being told they have a pre-disposition to mental health problems, people being told that the priest who abused them was not acting in his capacity as a priest at that time. People being told they are simply chasing the money – all of this is re-abusive. And I’m embarrassed to be honest, to be part of a Church which has said those things to people. And I think one thing that IICSA, I hope, will look at clearly is the relationship between the Church and its professional advisers – its lawyers and its insurers- to ensure that what comes first is the pastoral response, so survivors are treated properly as victims, so that their voices are heard and they have much easier access to the compensation that is their due.
DB : But there’s a lot of money involved isn’t there? the whole structure and the whole insurance culture s worth millions and millions of pounds. Do you really think that in reality, the Church will go some way to reforming this system?
Compensation needs to be moderated to the level of what happened to somebody, but if church leaders have been responsible for ruining someone’s life, then there needs to be financial compensation and that needs to be generous and appropriate and if that has financial implications for us as a Church, then that’s something we have to swallow, I’m afraid.
DB : And will you be asking the Church as well and in the light of IICSA indeed, to perhaps look again at the way it responds to survivors, particularly with regard to the insurers?
What I’ve read from some survivors is alarming and I do hope that those in those positions will look seriously at those relationships.
DB : OK and we touched upon a little earlier the Clergy Discipline Measure. You suggest that it needs reforming, what would you like to see done to that?
I think it needs to be sped up hugely and I think we need to be much more aware of voices of survivors who are involved in often very long processes. From the point of view of a Bishop, it’s a very, very difficult process to implement, it’s very slow and it’s particularly difficult where there is ambiguity, where the level of evidence is uncertain, where you’re sure in your heart that things aren’t quite right.
DB : And as you mentioned, the Independent Inquiry is about to hear another two weeks of evidence into the way the Anglican Church handles allegations of child sexual abuse. How hopeful are you that its findings and recommendations will lead to a safer Church?
I’m sure there will be critical engagement with whatever they find, I’m sure there’ll be proper debate, but I think the mood is changing. I think in the Blackburn Diocese, it’s interesting that it was not difficult to get the six senior clergy to sign up to a letter which said some quite far-reaching things and I’m hearing other Bishops and other senior leaders speak similarly, so I think the culture is changing . I think we’ll be very receptive to what IICSA has to say.
DB : How much notice will the powers that be..for example, Church House and Lambeth Palace, how much notice do they take of something like this do you think?
I think they listen very, very seriously and we look to see what happens. It would be good to see perhaps other dioceses writing similarly and responding similarly to keep the debate going, but the response we’ve had so far, has been a positive

July 1 2019 – IICSA Anglican Church Investigation

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https://www.iicsa.org.uk/news/inquiry-hold-further-public-hearing-anglican-church-investigation

TWITTER

https://twitter.com/InquiryCSA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Eembeddedtimeline%7Ctwterm%5Eprofile%3AInquiryCSA&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.iicsa.org.uk%2Flive

  1. Mr Greenwood tells the Inquiry: “When it comes to safeguarding, this is a thoroughly disreputable organisation and cannot be trusted.”

  2. We are now hearing from David Greenwood on behalf of MACSAS and a group of victims and survivors. “Cultural change will only come through the enforcement of tough penalties,” he says, with regard to safeguarding within the Church.

  3. Mr Scorer tells the panel: “I hope you can see the frustration of survivors about the pace of change and the fear, most of all, that progress will simply stall when this Inquiry comes to an end.”

  4. Mr Scorer says “any attempt to change hearts and minds in the church has to be led forcefully and vocally from the top… survivors don’t see that.” Watch live:

  5. We will now hear from the legal representatives of core participants, beginning with Richard Scorer on behalf of a group of victims and survivors.

  6. Ms Scolding is now explaining the structure of the Church in Wales as well as its safeguarding policies. Watch live:

  7. Independent Social Worker Edina Carmi has been instructed to review these sample cases and provide her expert opinion about whether the dioceses’ practices were in line with the relevant guidance and whether the steps taken were adequate.

80th Anniversary of The Bell Declaration 1939 – “The Church ought to declare what is just” – ‘The Church’s Function in War-time’ by G.K.A. [Bishop] Bell – Fortnightly Review – September 1939 [Bell’s Five Principles of Humanity, Justice and Peace]

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George Bell Bishop of Chichester

“If the Church does not fulfil its function now, how will it ever persuade mankind that it has a function?

“This matter of functions is vital. The State has a function, and the Church has a function. They are distinct. The State is the guarantor of order, justice and civil liberty. It acts by the power of restraint, legal and physical. The Church, on the other hand, is charged with a gospel of God’s redeeming love. It witnesses to a Revelation in history. It speaks of the realities which outlast change. It aims at creating a community founded on love, So when all the resources of the State are concentrated, for example, on winning a war [or Brexit – Ed], the Church is not a part of those resources . It stands for something different from these. It possesses an authority independent of the State. It is bound, because of that authority, to proclaim the realities which outlast change. It has to preach the gospel of redemption.

“[In short, the Church] is not the State’s spiritual auxiliary with exactly the same ends as the State. To give the impression that it is, is both to do a profound disservice to the nation and to betray its own principles…

“[But the Church must still settle] the question of right and wrong – the moral law:
The Church then ought to declare both in peace-time and war-time, that there are certain basic principles which can and should be the standards of both international and social order, and conduct. Such principles are the

[1] equal dignity of all men,
[2] respect for human life,
[3] acknowledgement of the solidarity for good and evil of all nations and races of the earth,
[4] fidelity to the plighted word, and
[5] appreciation of the fact that power of any kind, political or economic, must be co-extensive with responsibility.

“The Church therefore ought to declare what is just…

“The Church is universal. Its message is for all nations. The Church in any country fails to be the Church if it forgets that its members in one nation have a fellowship with its members in every nation”.

[Source: “The Church’s Function in War-time” by G.K.A. [Bishop] Bell – Fortnightly Review – September 1939]

 

Further information:

https://richardwsymonds.wordpress.com/2019/06/18/the-bell-declaration-1939-the-church-ought-to-declare-what-is-just/

George Bell House - 4 Canon Lane - Chichester Cathedral

George Bell House – 4 Canon Lane – Chichester Cathedral [before the name change in 2015] [Picture: Alamy]

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“No justification for lack of name” – Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson – Chichester Observer Letter – June 20 2019

The phrase that 4 Canon Lane was ‘formerly known as George Bell House’ is misleading.  4 Canon Lane is a street address.  The building was given to the cathedral to commemorate Bishop George Bell, funds were raised for its renovation as George Bell House and it was dedicated as such in 2008 by Archbishop Rowan Williams.  It has never been undedicated.  The name ‘George Bell House’ therefore still stands.  The right of the cathedral authorities to attempt to remove it without due consultation with all parties concerned is highly contentious.
In view of the findings of two senior lawyers that the allegations made against George Bell are not only unproven but unfounded, there is no justification for the continued absence of his name from the building.  On the contrary, there would be every justification for all those who contributed to the renovation of George Bell House to request their money back unless the name is immediately reinstated, or to take other action as they deem appropriate.
The statement that ‘Chichester Cathedral Friends has no official position on the George Bell issue’ beggars belief.  George Bell founded the Friends in 1939.  It was entirely in order to raise this question at their anniversary meeting on 6 June.  The reply given at the time was that it would now be considered.  We await a further statement with interest.
Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson
Sheffield
“Injustice on the Sisters and us” – Charlotte A Evans – Chichester Observer Letter – June 20 2019
Your report on the demonstration at George Bell House [4 Canon Lane] seems slightly to misrepresent the issue, in stating that its purpose was “to highlight the ‘injustice’ on the former Bishop”.
As I understand it, the protesters were gathered to highlight, first, the injustice on the Sisters* who donated the house, and on all of us who contributed financially to the renovation of the former Archdeaconry.
It was formally opened by Archbishop Rowan Williams as “George Bell House”, in 2008.
Thus, the commemoration of Bishop Bell was integral to the establishment of the centre, and ought not to have been suppressed by the Dean & Chapter.
You are right, of course, to report the sense of injustice regarding Bishop Bell.
Many of your readers will be aware of the petition to restore the name to George Bell House, which [I believe] has over a thousand signatories so far.
Thank you for your reporting.
Charlotte A Evans
Chichester
* Anglican Sisters of the Community of the Servants of the Cross

June 19 2019 – “The Blackburn Letter – A new beginning for the Church?” – Stephen Parsons – ‘Surviving Church’

http://survivingchurch.org/2019/06/18/the-blackburn-letter-a-new-beginning-for-the-church/

The Blackburn Letter. A new beginning for the Church?

A document which I hope will always be referred to as the Blackburn Letter appeared yesterday June 17th 2019.  It is written by the senior staff of the Blackburn Diocese and is addressed to their licensed staff, clergy and Readers, and safeguarding officers. 

In essence, it is commending study of the recent IICSA report on the Diocese of Chichester and the Peter Ball case. 

Those of us who have been cheering on the case of safeguarding for some time cannot but feel that this is progress.  The Letter may claim historic importance because it shows that in one diocese of the Church of England a group of senior church people really seem to understand all the dimensions of safeguarding in the Church.  They understand it in a way that goes far beyond the box-ticking reputational management process which is what safeguarding comes to be in many places.

Why am I personally moved by this letter?  For a start, the Blackburn senior staff want those who study the IICSA report to notice before anything else the suffering that has been caused by sexual abuse to real victims.  Many people, including myself, have always pleaded that safeguarding should start at this end – the needs of survivors.  Sexual abuse, however many years ago it took place is a ‘human catastrophe’ for those caught up in it as victims as well as causing ‘lifelong impact’.  How right that the Blackburn Letter begins with words from Psalm 51.  ‘Have mercy on us O God, for we have sinned’.  The letter makes no apology for putting the human suffering endured by survivors right at the beginning. 

The traditional preoccupation of the Church, reputation management, only gets a mention in para 5.  It is mentioned, but only as a way of explaining that it has been a factor in not dealing well with allegations from the past.   When protecting the good name of the institution has taken precedence, the suffering of survivors has been made far worse. 

Moving on from what appear to be genuine expressions of sorrow and contrition on behalf of the whole Church, the letter begins to explore what can be done in the future.  The congregations are to be places where ‘children and vulnerable adults can be entirely safe’ but also where ‘the voices of those who have difficult things to say or disclosures to make are heard and acted on.’  The second part of this wish is far harder to deliver.  Many survivors report that the reason the Church has found it so hard to deal with their needs is because the recounting of their past experience of suffering causes so much discomfort in the hearer. 

None of us find it easy to listen to stories of abuse, particularly when the abuser was a trusted figure, like a priest or a bishop.  Taking on board the idea that a member of the home team is an abuser is deeply unsettling.  It is far easier to shut down the discordant thought and that is what many people will do in practice.

A further insight in the letter, which is music to my ears, is the recognition that clericalism, deference and abuse of power lie behind the ‘cover-up’ and the silencing of the ‘voices of the vulnerable’.  Clergy and other leaders have power within the relationships they possess and there needs to be ‘deeper awareness’ of that power.  This theme of ministerial power and its potential for harm is the topic that I have chosen to reflect on in the forthcoming volume of essays Letters to a Broken Church. There is so much more to be said on this topic.

I want to make two further observations about the letter.  One is that the letter appears to have been written at a visceral level.  In short, the emotions of sorrow and repentance are allowed to rise to the surface and be dominant themes in what is communicated.  Somehow the letter, assisted by a quotation from Andrew Graystone’s essay of a week ago, manages to avoid completely the somewhat petulant tone of so many expressions of ‘regret’ and ‘apology’ that we associate with official statements. 

Are we correct in seeing in this letter the beginning of something new, a combination of deep sorrow and genuine feeling for the needs of survivors and those wronged by the Church?    

Such sentiments, if they are followed through, will begin to meet the needs of survivors.  It may be the beginning of the ‘change of culture’ that has been looked for by so many.  It is also the first sign that some senior clergy individually and corporately are beginning to ‘get it’.

My final observation is a somewhat irreverent one but it needs to be made.  Is it a coincidence that this remarkable statement of unanimity and contrition about safeguarding emerges from a diocese that is far away from London?  The Diocese of Blackburn may be articulating a somewhat prophetic position precisely because it feels itself geographically and in other ways remote from the centres of Anglican influence represented by Church House and Lambeth Palace respectively.  The prospect of an entire diocese studying the articulate comments and criticisms of the Independent Inquiry must be causing considerable discomfort among those who try hard to control the narrative and set the agenda for the Church of England.  The forthcoming debates at York General Synod may or may not get to the heart of the issue as the Blackburn Letter seems to have done.  Whatever is said at York, the effect of the process of study in the Blackburn diocese will have implications which will reverberate long into the future.  It will be increasingly hard to claim that no one understands the issues.  The consequences of this serious reflective study on safeguarding and the needs of survivors will be hard to limit only to one circumscribed geographical area represented by the Diocese of Blackburn.

Right at the heart of this blog’s concern and many other places is the desire that the suffering of abuse survivors should be understood, responded to and healed.  Up till now the Church has often insisted of responding through damage limitation and avoidance.  The Blackburn response is suggesting that these methods are no longer viable.  Perhaps the Blackburn Letter is the beginning of a new phase in the history of the Church of England.  One day it may be said that that on the 17th June 2019 the Church of England, represented by the Diocese of Blackburn, began to move from denial and avoidance of the issue of abuse victims to a stance resembling healing, humility and new beginnings.

About Stephen Parsons

Stephen is a retired Anglican priest living at present in Northumberland. He has taken a special interest in the issues around health and healing in the Church but also when the Church is a place of harm and abuse. He has published books on both these issues and is at present particularly interested in understanding the psychological aspects of leadership and follower-ship in the Church. He is always interested in making contact with others who are concerned with these issues.